28 September 2016

 
Time for tranquility at Anantara Layan hotel
It's tasty Thailand
Laura Millar describes a foodie treat on the shores of Koh Phangan and Phuket
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n my first day at the Anantara Layan hotel, I’m told lunch will be cooked by... me. Perhaps it's pay-back time from last night's dinner, when the chef presented what I can only describe as edible art - amuse-bouches of olives hung on a miniature tree; a pink disc of yellowfin tuna tartare and seabass smoked with Jack Daniel’s. It transpires that Anantara, on Phuket's northwest coast, does things differently. To immerse guests in the local culture, a cooking school called Spice Spoons is offered. It starts with an 8am visit to the food market in the nearby village of Talang with the hotel’s chef. The market is cavernous, with stalls selling everything from fresh seafood on ice to buckets of coconut cream, and displays of garlic, ginger, green papaya and mint.

The cooking class takes place at the hotel’s Dee Plee Thai restaurant. On the menu are shrimp tartlets, green chicken curry and mango with sticky rice. I mix batter for tartlets, marinade mini-aubergines in coconut milk and curry paste and simmer the rice. Phuket is under two hours from an exquisite archipelago including Phi Phi Leh (where The Beach was shot), Khai (home to nothing but a bar) and an island nicknamed ‘Bamboo’.

A boat trip taking in all these is perfect to get a flavour of what draws so many visitors. We speed across turquoise water, passing giant granite islands covered in greenery, stopping off at Phi Phi Don, the larger sister island to Leh.
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A Two Bedroom Pool Villa at Anantara Layan
Relax on the beach in luxurious Thailand
For a different island experience we visit Layan’s sister resort, Rasananda, on the much smaller island of Koh Phangan. Its population of around 8,000 doubles once a month as partygoers descend on Haad Rin beach for the infamous full moon parties. Apart from those wild nights, though, it appeals mostly to families and couples.

The elegant Rasananda is on the beach and its 64 villas and suites each have their own plunge pool. There’s plenty to do: snorkelling or kayaking around Ang Thong National Marine Park - with more than 40 tiny islands - elephant trekking and yoga. There's a cooking school here too. But I demur. It’s time to let someone else
do the hard work.

Original article published in Feb 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.
After snorkelling near a reef among swarms of colourful fish, we pull in to Pileh Lagoon, surrounded by hulking stone outcrops. That evening, the head chef does the cooking. He serves up delicious soft-shell crab curry and a light coconut sorbet.
"We speed across turquoise
water, passing giant
granite islands covered
in greenery."
 
 
 
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